After weeks of speculation, the Cleveland Indians dismissed manager Manny Acta on Thursday. That announcement wasn’t very shocking, but the day’s other news—that GM Chris Antonetti’s job was safe—came as a surprise to some Tribe fans who expected or hoped that Antonetti would also be fired after the Indians’ disappointing season.
In this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked our panelists: Should the Indians fire Chris Antonetti? Joining us this week are guest panelists Stephanie Liscio from It’s Pronounced “Lajaway”, Mike Brandyberry from Did The Tribe Win Last Night?, and Kevin Dean from Indians Prospect Insider.
Note: Some responses were submitted before Thursday’s news about Acta’s dismissal.
Stephanie Liscio: I’ve been writing about the Indians’ many faults for a while now, and I keep coming back to the same conclusion—this isn’t one person’s fault. The blame lies with a number of people. If you fire someone like Chris Antonetti (or Manny Acta, for that matter), it seems to me like it’s primarily symbolic. While the Ubaldo Jimenez trade may be considered a fireable offense, removing Antonetti doesn’t change the overall philosophy of this organization.
The minor leagues are relatively thin on high-level talent right now, and that’s not just due to the two pitchers that left in the Jimenez trade. That can’t all be blamed on Antonetti, even if you can blame him for certain aspects of this mess. You remove him without cleaning out much of the rest of the front office, and someone with a similar philosophy will likely take his place.
Mike Brandyberry: Should Chris Antonetti be fired? Yes. Do I think for even a second the Indians will fire him? No. Antonetti took over the reins to a team two years ago that was a 90-loss team, but young and with a plan in mind. A year later they improved and he made the Ubaldo-deal and declared the “window of opportunity.” Since declaring they were contenders, Antonetti has done very little to even try to improve the team, much less make actual improvements. He settled for a number of journeymen and bargain basement free agents, instead of taking the chance of offering Josh Willingham the third year necessary to obtain him. He didn’t make the deal to obtain Kevin Youkilis while the offense floundered.
Now, they head to a winter where he’ll be expected to probably trade Chris Perez and Shin-Soo Choo (and maybe Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera), but how could anyone trust he’ll make the right move? He hasn’t made the right move once in his two years on the job.
Kevin Dean: The fan in me wants to say yes, but I often tell that fool to pipe down and appeal to my rational, more analytical persona. Strong organizations, like Rome, are not built in a day. Or even two years. As dismal as it has looked for the majority of those two years, there is still something to salvage. Something that needs plenty of work, sure, but something.
As is always the case with small-market teams, it will take shrewd transactions. It will also require an admission of defeat on the most visible decision of Chris Antonetti’s tenure, the Ubaldo Jimenez trade. Declining Jimenez’s option wouldn’t take away from the fact that red flags about the proposed “ace” were out there for all to see prior to the deal and that it failed miserably, but what it would do is show fans some humility from an executive they often seem disconnected with.
This winter will be a major opportunity in which to set a new standard. Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo and Chris Perez could all be moved, and Travis Hafner, Roberto Hernandez and Grady Sizemore could all be let go. What would be left is a respectable core of Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, a looming elite prospect, and ideally, another few pieces in return for Cabrera/Choo/Perez.
What also remains is many current questions at the pitcher position. Whether or not Antonetti answers those questions in the coming months probably determines whether or not I regret answering the original question with a no. Position 1 in the scorebook has to be priority number one for he and the Indians.
Lewie Pollis: Let’s turn the clock back six months. Before the season started, the consensus was that the 2012 Indians looked like a good-not-great team that would compete for a playoff spot and finish with a win total in the mid-to-high 80′s. There were flaws that weren’t addressed and most people thought the Tigers would win the division, but Cleveland certainly looked primed to be in the thick of it.
No one could honestly have predicted what happened next. Derek Lowe forgot how to strike batters out. Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez forgot how to throw strikes. Jack Hannahan, Casey Kotchman, Johnny Damon, and Jason Kipnis forgot how to hit. At least a dozen key players performed significantly worse than anyone could have reasonably expected. How is that Antonetti’s fault?
There are some legitimate grounds for criticizing the front office: the Ubaldo Jimenez deal, not trading Chris Perez in July, prying the “window of opportunity” open before it was really time. But we can’t really put all the blame for this year’s failures at Antonetti’s feet when he couldn’t have known how bad things were going to get.
Evan Vogel: Should the Indians fire Chris Antonetti? Yes. Antonetti may not have a lot of money to work with, but what he was given was not used wisely. The whole offseason, the team looked left-handed heavy. They traded for Russ Canzler, the Triple-A MVP of 2011, and they stuck him and his right-handed bat in the minors all season, giving $1.25 million guaranteed to an aging, left-handed Johnny Damon.
Derek Lowe, Casey Kotchman, and Jack Hannahan should not have been counted on and the bullpen was a disaster due to relying on three arms all season instead of making upgrades prior to the start of the season or even calling up solid arms from within the organization throughout the year.
Manny Acta takes the fall for the worst ownership and management of the 2012 season because he couldn’t win with the roster that he was given. Unfortunately, Shapiro and Antonetti are hand-cuffed by the Dolan Family financially, but they still need to be smart about how and when they do spend. Look at Baltimore, Oakland, and Tampa Bay. Not only the free agents but the drafting. It’s all terrible.
Blow the whole thing up and sell the team while you’re at it. The only way to change the culture eliminate everyone involved. If the Dolan’s aren’t willing to sell and move on, Antonetti has to go.
Steve Kinsella: Although I do not believe that the Cleveland Indians should fire Chris Antonetti at seasons end I do blame him for some of the player personnel choices leading into the 2012 season nor would it shock or upset me if he were let go.
I would like to see three things from Antonetti after the season and through the 2013 season which aren’t results-oriented. One, allow him to hire his manager—somebody that will work with him for better in-season roster management. Second, allow the new manager the autonomy to hire his own coaching staff not be strapped with organizational favorites. Finally, oversee a roster turnover that results in the injection of young close to major league ready players into the system for the new manager to mold.
I don’t expect 2013 to be much of a year in the way of wins and losses but I don’t expect to be where we are 1-year from today either. My expectations for 2013 (although I want for more) for the Antonetti led Indians in 2013 is to restore hope in the Tribe’s future.
Brian Heise: I might be out on an island here, but I’m going to say yes, the Indians should fire Antonetti. While I don’t hold him 100% at fault for what happened since it was only his second season as GM and he was forced to work on a shoe string budget, he did play a significant role. My opinion, however, stems from the idea that the Indians need a new voice or fresh perspective to build this team.
While the regime of Shapiro and now Antonetti has had a forward thinking approach to building a competitive baseball team where have they gotten us over the years? Now it feels as if they have gotten stuck in a rut, almost as if they’ve progressed things as far as they’re going to go and are now stuck in repeat. Someone new with fresh ideas and a fresh pair of eyes that is not already invested in the current situation may be just what the Tribe needs to finally build a winner.
Whether that’s firing Antonetti and replacing him with someone from outside of the organization or bringing in someone to work along side or right below him, something should be done with the front office. The current formula just isn’t working as currently assembled.